Playing Golf in Austria:
Golf Vacations and Golfing Holidays
Thinking of Austria, images of Alpine landscapes come up, people in traditional clothing and urban places with Baroque buildings and little old ladies drinking sitting in cafes with their Wiener dogs on their lap. In terms of activities, most foreigners will happily acknowledge that Austria is a great place for hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter.
However, other sports are rarely noticed - Austria sucks at football, and nobody doubts that the country does well with all sorts of winter sports anyway. However, there are plenty of sports that became increasingly popular in Austria over the course of the 20th century. One of these "newbies" is golf, which grew a large community of enthusiastic players especially since the 1970ies.
Golf has also become an important aspect of tourism. Foreigners enjoy Austrian golf courses for their scenic setting, often within dramatic mountain landscapes or by picturesque lakes. Today, a total of 128 golf courses attract golfers from all over the World. Travel agents and networks of golf courses offer special packages for golfing holidays. These packages usually include hotel, green fee and often even the gear for a certain group of golf courses.
A Paradise for Golf Aficionados
Those who want to spend their vacation starting with golf can choose to take lessons at a large number of different golf schools and training centres. Essentially all golf courses offer personal tutoring and lessons, but there are a few places that have specialised on beginners′ training.
The most prominent ones are probably the Golf Academy in the Tyrolian village of Seefeld; the school in Radstadt, Salzburg; the one in Bad Kleinkirchheim, Carinthia; or the David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Bad Tatzmannsdorf, Styria. One of the most famous golfers of Austria is not really famous for golf: Heinrich Harrer was born in 1912 and soon developed a passion for mountaineering and alpine sports.
At the winter Olympic Games in 1936, he was part of the Austrian national team in both downhill and slalom. As a mountaineer he became famous when he and a friend of his successfully mastered the Northern wall of the Eiger Mountain - the first men ever to achieve this. Heinrich Harrer was also a member of the SS and glorified by Nazi propaganda. Harrer got married to Lotte Wegener, the daughter of the German geographer Alfred Wegener.
Some History of Golf in Austria
At the outbreak of war, he happened to be hiking in the Himalaya, where he was arrested by the British and internalised until he escaped in 1944. Harrer went to Tibet, where he stayed and became a personal tutor to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
In this office he served for seven years, an experience he commercialised very successfully with books after his return to Austria. In 1953, he launched an expedition to the Amazon - only the first of a long series of expeditions that kept him busy for the rest of his life. In the late 1990ies, his "Seven Years in Tibet" provided the basis for a movie with Brad Pitt.
What does that have to do with golf? Harrer pioneered golf in Austria and in 1958, he became the national champion. He remained honorary president of the Austrian golf association until he died in 2006.
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